Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Airthrey Castle, Near Stirling

Airthrey Castle
Near Stirling

A bit of a 'faux' castle really, but as its such a beautiful building, and in a fantastic stretch of Scottish countryside, I'd say it earns its place on this blog. Situated about three and a half miles North East of the city of Stirling, just off the A91 to Bridge of Allan, the castle sits in a vast estate consisting of open grass lands and a man made loch (around which now stand, buildings belonging to the University of Stirling)

The name, "Airthrey" is thought to originate from two possible sources: firstly, Ard-rhedadie, meaning 'a high road' and possibly relating to the old road leading to Sherrifmuir nearby, and secondly, Airthrin, meaning a 'sharp point' or 'conflict', and possibly relating to a battle fought on or near the site of the present day castle in 839, when Kenneth McAlpine (King of the Scots) defeated the Picts. The estate surrounding the present day castle, are mentioned in Royal documents as far back as 1146, when the lands belonged to the keeper of Stirling Castle, Sir John Herice. The lands are then documented as passing to William, 3rd Lord Graham of Kincardine in 1488, given to him as a reward for bravery demonstrated on the battle field at the battle of Sauchieburn (during which King James III was killed) The estates stayed in the Graham Clan's hands, until they were sold in 1678, to John Hope of Hopetoun. From John Hope, the lands then passed to Charles Hope, 1st Earl of Hopetoun. By 1759, the estate had once again been sold, this time to Captain Robert Haldane of Plean (a small village just outside of Stirling) Captain Haldane commissioned Thomas White to design the 360 acre grounds and the man made loch, and subsequently, Robert Haldane his son, commissioned Robert Adam to design and build the castle in 1791. The castle was built, and then promptly sold in 1798 to Robert Abercrombie.

The Abercrombie family held the castle until 1889, at which time, Donald Graham purchased it. He made some changes to the building, and added some large additions to its fabric. During the Second World War, the castle was used as a maternity hospital, with this function being continued right up until the 1960's. At this stage, the castle and its grounds were earmarked as the first brand new Scottish University since Edinburgh University (1582) In 1967, the University of Stirling was opened, and the School of Law based in the castle. The castle is said to have retained many of its original late 18th century features, despite a serious fire in 2000.

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